It is intriguing to watch a film that has been made in the country where you are living and about which viewers sense a special familiarity.
City of Life is set in Dubai and it offers glimpses of life in its glitzy villas as well as depictions of those who live in basic apartments and shop at small grocery stores.
The film captures well the cultural mix of Dubai and the UAE as it switches effortlessly between Arabic, Hindi and English in both the spoken language and written sub-titles. The characters also speak with a variety of accents that are typical of the sounds of the Emirates.
The cinematography with its special effects and scenes shot from unusual angles is a big part of the film’s attractiveness.
The quality of the acting is even which augurs well for the growth of the film industry in the UAE. The characters are representative of different groups in Dubai but the way their lives intertwine in the film is sometimes forced and far-fetched.
The story develops with an array of car chases, desert scenes and footage of parties and night clubs that are presented with pace to sustain attention.
City of Life reveals the rapid development of Dubai with its skyscraper skyline, bright lights, expensive cars and people feasting on the city’s excess. When one of the characters earns big money in a Bollywood style café for being a look-alike this suggests a motif for a city that is besotted with appearances and practiced in copying others. Realistically the film shows the city’s underbelly with expats struggling to hold their jobs and make their dirhams stretch until the next payday.
The young generation is portrayed as being adrift from its moorings while the expats struggle with a sense of temporariness and the desire to make meaningful and lasting relationships. The tension young Emiratis face between maintaining the honour of their family while managing the powerful temptations in the city is a constant theme. The destruction of traditional Emirati society by urban growth and wealth is seen as being as damaging and as fatal as a multi-car pile up on a Dubai highway.
City of Life provokes thought and provides a host of opportunities for talking about life in Dubai and in many rapidly growing cities.
‘City of Life’ Screening at Fujairah Cinema, Fujairah in Focus, 11 May 2010.
Listen to the Director
‘City of Life’ Dubai Film—Now for the Sequel, Fujairah in Focus.
Connect with Geoff Pound on Facebook, Twitter or at geoffpound(at)gmail.com
Image: A car scene from the film, City of Life.